Friday, May 27, 2011

new cooking territory

I have certain recipes/dishes memorized. Like the chocolate chip cookie recipe I "invented" by combining bits and pieces of what I liked from four other recipes. Or like my "famous" salsa recipe, created through trial and error, batch after batch, until one day I thought it was so delicious that I stopped tweaking it and committed what I had done to memory. That kind of cooking is tried and true. It does not disappoint until it becomes too predictable. Then I find myself itching to try something new in the kitchen.

Last week, while grocery shopping, it hit me. I'd never made anything with fresh blueberries. I'd never made blueberry muffins! (from scratch...but is there any other way!?) Blueberries are in season (hoping to find them at the farmers' market soon! but for my first batch, supermarket blueberries had to suffice) so I picked up a package and then looked online for a good recipe when I got home.

The great thing about being an avid baker is that once you have a stockpile of ingredients, you usually only need one or two new things (or sometimes, nothing new) for any given recipe. I've also gotten really good at converting recipes to be vegan, so now I don't even bother to look for most recipes from vegan sources. One of my favorite recipe sources is AllRecipes because of the user comments and ratings. The blueberry muffin recipe has over 4,500 reviews! I usually spend 5-10 minutes reading a few reviews for recipes I plan to try, to see what the general consensus is. Sometimes users make helpful suggestions.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins - my vegan version

* 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unbleached sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1 Tbsp ground flax + 1/4 c water
* 1/3 cup soy (or otherwise dairy free) milk
* 1 cup fresh blueberries
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

And for a crumb topping, I didn't measure this out, but combined:

* vegan butter at room temperature
* flour
* sugar
* cinnamon

Bake in a muffin tin at 400 degrees F, 12-18 min.

Another thing which I had wanted to cook for a long time but which always intimidates me is Indian food. I think the names of the dishes as well as the wide variety of spices is what made me feel like I couldn't do it. So I started paying closer attention. I learned the names of my favorite Indian dishes. I read about which spices went into each dish. I don't have it all memorized, to be sure, but I have a better understanding of it now, and it's not as intimidating. I decided to make chana masala first, a chickpea dish and one of my favorites. I slightly cheated by buying a spice mix as opposed to making my own. I didn't own about half of the spices needed for the dish, so this cut down on the price a lot, and the good news is that the spice mixture is just straight spices, no weird preservatives or anything else bad. It was $1.50 from my local Indian grocer, for enough to make the dish 5 times. Now that I know I can handle making this type of cuisine, however, I'll probably try to start acquiring the spices. Making chana masala was so easy, and it turned out to be quite delicious in its homemade form. If you are interested, I recommend checking out this Smitten Kitchen post on the subject.

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